“harukaze kōri o toku”
east wind melts the ice
This microseason typically lasts 4~8 February and is part 1 of 3 in:
the beginning of spring
東 is a very useful character in Japanese. It means “east” and is in the picture accompanying this entry where I photographed four Mahjong pieces: the “east” tiles 🙂
In fact, in the game, that piece is the east wind. How apt!
There are multiple ways to read 東. My system on this blog when explaining isolated kanji is to give the character on the first line, then on the next line the on’yomi reading in katakana (in this case トウ) with the kun’yomi reading after it in hiragana (in this case ひがし), then on the next line the corresponding Romanised readings, and finally on the fourth line the English meaning.
Don’t worry too much about on’yomi and kun’yomi. If you are studying Japanese then they are for sure important and you ought to know the different contexts that they might be used but otherwise it’s fine just to understand that there are different ways to pronounce a kanji character in Japanese. Indeed it’s one of the things that makes the language rather difficult!
You might have noticed in this case that, in the original microseason explanation right at the top, the 東 symbol was pronounced NEITHER “tou” NOR “higashi”. I am drawing these microseasons from the list here, and I believe that they go back quite far to a time when the Japanese language was more greatly related to Chinese, so the character-writing of these seasons often occupies an ambiguous middle ground. I am faithfully reproducing what is given on that site, and I suspect the pronunciation/translation is nuanced to that Japanese/Chinese context with a somewhat more traditional or unusual reading of the character in this case, as well as perhaps some license taken to make their reading into more grammatical-sounding Japanese. As always, any insights would be greatly appreciated as feedback in the comments.
Before we finish, let’s look at three compounds that use the 東 symbol 🙂
the east coast
“higashi betsuin hōru”
higashi betsuin hall // east temple branch hall
Keep a look out for 東. It’s one of those symbols that pops up all over the place and is well worth being able to instantly recognise.
Image credit: I took this one myself, with tiles from a set that Matthew Johnson has lent to The Carlton Sesh Palace for the time being.